Using Phone Data to Track Public Services

June 6th, 2011 by Kel Smith | Filed under Innovation, Mobile Apps, Public Services

display of train schedules in New York subway systemMy friend Craig DeLarge linked me to this interesting development in New York City’s underground subway network. One of the issues facing the city’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority has been how to provide better predictability in train schedules.

Technology now enables us to analyze when and how people lose their phone services when going underground. Urban planners see potential in mining data collected from user’s phones, accelerometers and GPS systems to predict such factors as road conditions.

The use of cell phone data for community services is not a new concept. In fact, Wansoo Im has spent the past few years working on something he called “public participatory GIS” — sort of a community-based geographical tagging system. (If you’ve heard of the New York City rest room maps, that’s him.)

There are growing uses of mobile technology for access services, helping people with disabilities navigate the cities where they live — not to mention the capability to connect people to one another. Just another example of universal design providing a more globally common good.

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